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Meet the Director

Dr. Benjamin Downs, director of the Pre-Conservatory Center of Excellence

Dr. Benjamin Downs enjoys a multi-faceted career as educator, scholar, and performer. As an educator, he has served on the faculty of Macalester College, and as an instructor at Stony Brook University, University of Cincinnati, and the University of Illinois. He also has 20 years of experience teaching pre-college piano and music theory. Before coming to Shattuck-St. Mary’s, he was teacher and director of the MacPhail Center for Music’s pre-conservatory program.

As a scholar, Benjamin completed his PhD in Theory and History of Music from Stony Brook in 2018 specializing in philosophies of listening and avant-garde music since 1968. As a scholar, his work has received many awards including a Fulbright Research Grant (Germany), the Paul Sacher Stiftung Stipendium (Switzerland), and a Graduate Council Fellowship. His research has been published in peer-reviewed journals including Music Theory Spectrum, the Music Research Forum, and Mosaic: Journal of Music Research. Benjamin has also written program notes for many ensembles and institutions including the Great Lakes Music Festival, Cincinnati Chamber Music Society, the JACK Quartet, and the Emerson Quartet.

Benjamin also holds a doctorate in Piano Performance from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. As a student, he studied primarily with James Tocco and Ian Hobson, with additional studies with Elisabeth Pridonoff and Michael Chertock. He has performed throughout North America, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland as a soloist and with his wife, cellist Rebeccah Parker Downs. He has also collaborated with cellist Yehuda Hanani, and members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Windsor Symphony, and Minnesota Symphony. Benjamin has won prizes in many national and international piano competitions including the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Competition, the Chautauqua International Piano Competition, the Northwestern Piano Competition, and the Cincinnati Chamber Music Competition. Benjamin is especially committed to performing new music. Recent performances include the first book of etudes by György Ligeti, the Ligeti horn trio, Allegro sostenuto and Guero by Helmut Lachenmann; as well as midwest premieres of works by Missy Mazzoli and Molly Joyce. In 2018, he was awarded a McKnight Foundation Artist Development Grant to perform Unremembered by Sarah Kirkland Snider.